Good News!

scan016Yesterday was a good news day for me. Sometimes it seems as though things will go along and go along and then one day the champagne cork pops! The trick is not to give up.

         My two students completed an exam from CSL headquarters that took more than seven hours. That more or less finishes their work with me and moves them into their last year of ministerial studies. I am certain they did well on the test and I am certain they are already wonderful ministers. I could not have had more beautiful people for my last ministerial class. Thank you, God!

It’s been two years, but it seems like yesterday that we started. In another way it seems as though we’ve been meeting every Wednesday since we were all teenagers. That can’t be so, because one of the students is actually my daughter.

My other good news is about a long running national struggle and the opportunity for me to release a personal grievance. The Supreme Court announced two decisions that will change the lives of gays and lesbians from this day forward.

The first had to do with Prop 8. Here in California, it looks as if CSL ministers will be performing same-sex marriages again. I look forward to it. The other Court decision gave me personal joy and I am finally ready to release an old grudge about a gross insult and injustice against my dear, departed friends whose story parallels the Supreme Court case…

When I lived in Massachusetts, I had two wonderful friends. We were extremely close for many reasons, including sobriety, political opinions and loving to laugh. We also had a great deal in common because of our successful years in education.

One of my friends was a retired high school librarian. Her partner was a retired administrator in the same school district. By the time the first partner died, they had been together 37 years and were living in a upscale retirement village in North Carolina.

I was back in California by then, but we were still very close. When Mary died, I flew out to help Betty. She thought it would be simple since they had shared everything for so many years.They’d been to a lawyer, made their wills, and everything was owned jointly. So she thought.

Betty believed her income would be lower but that she would still be well-off because they had done everything they could to legally tighten it all up.  She knew she couldn’t inherit her partner’s pension, etc., but she expected the current assets to be slam-dunk. Maybe it would have been in Massachusetts.

We were stunned as the lawyer explained that the surviving partner had to pay an enormous amount of North Carolina State inheritance taxes to settle the estate. I don’t remember it all exactly, but I know she had to pay something like 25% taxes on half of everything because they weren’t married. When it was over, Betty  was in much worse financial position than she’d expected.

These were two women who had worked hard and supported themselves since they entered college in the early 1930’s. One typed other student’s papers. The other waited on tables. Neither of them would have finished school without a desperate need to move up in life. They were ambitious and  they needed those teaching credentials to be self-supporting.

They were a generation older than I was and I knew what it had been like for me so I admired them very much. They were very successful (for women) in their day. Remember, there were no women in corporate hierarchies and  women’s colleges hired only a few women professors. They really did well for their times. They earned their money. Mary taught night school adult classes. Betty made a library training film and self-published it way back in the 1950’s. They were quite frugal, worked hard, and were conservative in their lifestyles. They did what they could to take care of business.

These women were the kind of school teachers who have almost disappeared. Those best and brightest women have mostly now gone into higher paying jobs now.  They were “good” women. Well meaning, respectable, quiet and non-assuming. They took care of things, minded their business and expected courtesy from the world. In the education field, in my day, women like these were fairly common. They were the first “don’t ask, don’t tell” group.

Anyway, my friend Betty took the financial blow without quite understanding what went wrong with their plans. She was in shock over the death of her partner and she didn’t complain, but I was astonished and outraged at an amazing injustice! In retrospect, I think they failed to check out North Carolina inheritance laws before moving there, but women of my generation (even lesbians) didn’t know much about money management.

All this happened twenty years ago but I remembered it well. When I first read about the lawsuit Edith Windsor brought before the Supreme Court I got mad all over again. Her story was almost the same as Mary and Betty’s. The difference was that Ms. Windsor’s married her partner in Canada in 2007. My friends weren’t married because they didn’t have that choice. Many people who love each other still don’t have that choice.

As of yesterday, the Supreme Court declared in favor of Ms. Windsor. She gets to file a joint income tax return and new financial rights for survivors of same-sex marriages are established as the law of the land. Ms. Windsor gets to keep her rightly inherited money. I now release my old grievance and celebrate the future happiness of new friends.  I think many people can understand that people deserve to marry if it means financial equality so I look for more states to make same-sex marriage legal quickly.

Things have turned around in many ways. I celebrate the gay rights movement for continuing to hang in there on equality issues. As time moves along, common sense does prevail.  I try to remind myself of that when I see what’s happening right now on voter rights. That issue didn’t fare so well in the Court but I know that change is coming.

No matter how slowly, we are climbing higher on the good sense ladder of social issues. We should never, never give up.

It is important to positively persist. Those  who hang on to the dream, do prevail.  I learned this as a writer when I was starting out. I learned it again when I started the Center For Positive Living more than 20 years ago. I was reminded of it yesterday when my students took their ministerial test and I was reminded again when I read the news today.

But this is a day to celebrate and I do! I celebrate my students. I celebrate my friends’ love! I celebrate gay rights! I celebrate what’s coming on voter rights! I celebrate this day! We shall never give up. Never let the dream die. We speak our truth and keep on keeping on!

Ask  Yourself

What three things can I celebrate today?

What dreams have I pursued and caught ?

What is my dream now?

How shall I pursue the dream now?

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Lovers In Paradise

scan016One afternoon, in Stuffy Old England, more than a century ago, the poet & artist, William Blake, had a visitor. “Come in,” he called. “We’re in the garden.” And there were Blake and his wife, stark naked, reading Milton’s poem, Paradise Lost to each other.

The visitor left the garden quickly and went into the house where the Blakes soon followed him. Blake said to his shamefaced friend, “What’s wrong? It’s only Adam and Eve, you know!”

Many of us learned to be ashamed of our bodies, and for that matter, of our sexual feelings very early. Perhaps we were taught that sexual love was suitable only for married couples and should take only place in the dark. Perhaps we were taught that too much interest in such things was a sign of immaturity or evil.

We hold remnants of a lot of goofy old ideas. Some people really believed that there were “good” and “bad” women and only the bad ones enjoyed sex. We seem to have a love/hate relationship with our bodies and sexual desires. Our movies and TV stories are stuffed with our yearning for romantic love at the same time we deny it is possible.

It was during the days of chivalry that the idea of “romantic” love as separate from sexual union was invented in the Western World. The idea was that romance had a deeper spiritual component and from that we got the whole virgin and whore syndrome.

As a young woman, we girls argued often about whether or not one could possibly enjoy sex without being “in love”. Despite the stuff in the media, most of us still hold remnants of these ideas. It is fun to be romantic on Valentine’s Day and we should never be ashamed of our bodies and our natural drives. (Although we certainly want to be loving and responsible about our behavior.)

More than a hundred years after the Victorian Age, some of us are still living in that repressed belief system. During the rule of rule of England’s Queen Victoria, she is supposed to have counseled young wives to, “lie still and think of England” during sexual intercourse.

Some of our repressed ideas are from an even earlier age. They come from the early years of the Christian religion when Saint Augustine decided that men should love God, and not be tempted by women. He thought men were better off celibate and we see how that works for priests. Those were ignorant times. There were serious debates about whether or not women had souls in those days. They had souls, all right but they had very few rights or power.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I offer some thoughts on romantic and sexual love. We are created in the image and likeness of God and that is the Creative Principle of Life. God is Love, working in our lives through spiritual Law. God is a Power For Good in our lives and we can express it in all our relationships.

God created us in love and we are born to express love. That is a basic truth that we hear in New Thought churches but there is little said about romantic love or sexual activity beyond praying to meet the perfect right partner.

Some people actually come to church to meet that perfect right partner. Perhaps we are lonely, and want someone to complete us. If we stick around, we will discover that we must love ourselves first.

“You complete me” was a great line in a good movie but the Truth is… No one can complete you. You must discover your own completeness in order to understand your own worth and spiritual magnificence.

One thing I hope we all know is there is nothing wrong with wanting a partner to love. Our bodies are made to express love. It is normal and natural and in obeys life’s purpose to love. If we choose to truly express love and not just create a power play or manipulation, it is good. How could it be anything else?

There are many ways to love. One way is to marry a person of the opposite sex and have some kids. I heard of a couple recently that was celebrating over 80 years together. Yes, it can be nice to find true love young and stay with it but that is not the only good or acceptable way. If a relationship is not loving, divorce is not failure, it is an intelligent response.

Some people stay single and if they are happy, that’s fine. It is also possible to find love and stay away from marriage. It is possible to be celibate and be happy and sexually active and be happy. The main thing is to make choices that work for you as an individual, not for your parents or parent’s parents.

Some people choose to remarry and, statistically, second marriages work better than the first one. I knew a man who was happy in his fifth try. He must have done a lot of growing and changing along the way and I salute his optimism. Optimism helps and so does spiritual growth. I know several people who are happy in their third marriages.

Every couple should have the marriage choice if they want it. I know same-sex couples who have been together for many years and they would like an official marriage. There is no question in my mind that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry just like the rest of us. Why in the world should anyone care?

As you enjoy your day, take a moment to enjoy the vision of William Blake and his wife reading poetry to each other in their little English Eden. I hope it makes you smile. Blake was a deeply spiritual man and his work has helped set this culture free from some of our nonsensical beliefs. I think of him as being a person who knew who and what he was. It is not surprising that he was happy reading classical poetry to his wife, while naked in his garden.

Blake lived in Joy. Without pretense, without waiting for perfect conditions, without shame. He welcomed his friend into the Garden of Eden, without embarrassment, because he knew the Truth that sets us free – that we are all spiritual beings, created in the image and likeness of God. And knowing that creates joy just to think about, doesn’t it?

This Valentine’s Day, and every day, won’t you take a moment to see yourself in Joy? And feel the Joy? Feel the freedom, the love and the internal permission to enjoy life that is yours by right of Divine Inheritance.

Ask Yourself

Do I love my body?

Am I willing to use this affirmation?

I love my body, as it is, right now.

Am I in Joy now?

Am I willing to use this affirmation?

I am Joy in action.